Activist says completed Turkish wall turns Syria into “very big prison”

Turkey has announced the completion of a three-metre high wall along its border with Syria, built in an effort to prevent refugees and smugglers entering the country.

But it has come under fire from a human rights activist who said it turned the entire country of Syria into a “prison”

The completed 556km section is the first phase of a structure that is planned to span the entire 911km border between the two countries.

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The rest of the wall is due to be completed by autumn, at which point it would be the second-longest structure in the world, after the 3,460km Great Wall of China.

Photograph by Ozan Kose for AFP/Getty Images

Humanitarian expert Killian Kleinschmidt said he saw the wall first hand on a visit to Gazientep in southern Turkey last week.

“You see it running through the mountains, up and down,” he said. “It’s really wow. Nobody gets across the border now without the Turks saying so.”

Kleinschmidt, founder of humanitarian consultancy Switxboard, said that the wall, together with new barriers along Syria’s borders with Lebanon and Jordan, had effectively ended the mass exodus of refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war.

“They have made Syria into a very big prison,” he said. “Lebanon has closed its border more or less. There’s no wall but it’s close to being one. Jordan has an earth berm and is using American technology such as night-vision stuff to close its border and nobody gets across.”

Photograph by Cem Genco for Anadolu Agency/Getty Images (also main image)

The measures meant that the outflow of Syrian refugees has “more or less finished,” Kleinschmidt said.

The Turkish border wall is comprised of modular concrete blocks each weighing 14 tonnes and is topped by 60 centimetres of razor wire, according to Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak.

The paper said that the blocks were produced by contractors including Toki, a state-run social housing provider.

When complete, the fortification will also include 67 reinforced defensive towers, 67 watchtowers and around 100 kilometres of illuminated sections.

It is estimated that over five million Syrians have fled to neighbouring countries since the onset of the civil war in 2011, with almost three million of them seeking asylum in Turkey. Lebanon and Jordan have the next highest refugee populations, with registered numbers standing at one million and 600,000 respectively, although actual figures may be far higher.

Yesterday, designMENA also reported on furniture giant IKEA employing refugees at production centres in Jordan as part of a long-term plan to create employment for 200,000 disadvantaged people around the world through social entrepreneurship programmes.

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